Wokingham Borough Council has objected to the government’s proposed changes to the planning system.
The government’s consultation on its ‘Planning for the Future’ white paper would fundamentally change the way the planning system operates – creating a one size fits all national planning system and front loading public consultation and detailed assessments to produce faster local plans. The council’s response was published as part of an individual executive member decision, issued on Tuesday 27 October.
Council leader John Halsall said: “The government has committed to building 300,000 new homes per year across England. As that is not happening, the planning system is being blamed. The planning system is complicated and cumbersome, but councils do not in the main build houses. Developers do and will only build when it’s profitable for them to do so. The government’s proposed changes do not address that.”
Wayne Smith, executive member for planning and enforcement said: “If these proposals go through as they currently are, they would do lasting damage to Wokingham borough. They would take away so much of our ability to plan growth where it makes sense locally – to put the right homes in the right places – and standardise those powers across the country. That means that we would be following the same rules for places as diverse as a busy London borough that is fully built out, a rural district that is all countryside, a coastal area that is a tourist destination… These places are all so different and we need to be able to make decisions about our future at a local level.”
It follows the council’s objection to government’s other ‘changes to the planning system’ proposals earlier this month – which outlined plans to see Wokingham take double the number of homes built in the borough each year to 1,635. The council argued government’s ideas to boost housing would not compel developers to build more homes or speed up build rates because this would drive down prices and it is not in their interests to do so.
John Halsall continued: “We have already objected to the calculation that would more than double the number of houses we need to build in the borough every year and now we are objecting to the other proposals which would reduce our ability to manage development.
“We currently have one of the highest community infrastructure levy rates which means that developers pay for the infrastructure their new communities need – the roads, schools, shops, parks and open spaces, the sports facilities and community centres. The government is proposing to set that levy nationally, which would almost certainly result in a significantly lower rate, which would render us powerless to make developers pay for necessary infrastructure.”
Wayne Smith added: “We would also end up with far fewer affordable houses. We make developers have on average about 35% of what they build as affordable, which has made such a different to helping our residents climb onto the housing ladder. The proposals reduce what we could achieve locally.”
Take a look at the council’s response to the consultation.